It’s the New Year, which for many of us means resolving to eat better, exercise more, and save more money. But we might want to add to this list the resolution to protect our hearing.
In 2016, we read an abundance of reports about the growing epidemic of hearing loss. The World Health Organization has alerted us that billions of people are at risk from exposure to loud noise volumes at work, at home, and during leisure activities.
We also discovered that even teenagers are at risk, as the rate of hearing loss in teens is 30 percent higher than it was in the 90s.
The bottom line is that our hearing can be injured at work, while attending live shows, and even at home through the use of earbuds and headphones played at excessive volumes.
For 2017, let’s all start off on the right track by making some simple resolutions to protect and maintain our hearing health.
1. Know how loud is too loud
First of all, how can you know how loud is too loud, and how can you know when your hearing is at risk?
To begin with, sound is measured in units called decibels. As the decibel level rises, the intensity of the sound increases along with the risk of hearing damage.
Here’s a list of sounds with their affiliated decibel levels. Keep in mind that anything above 85 decibels can potentially damage your hearing with continuous exposure.
- Whisper in a tranquil library – 30 decibels (dB)
- Normal conversation – 60 dB
- City traffic – 85 dB
- Jackhammer at 50 feet – 95 dB
- Motorcycle – 100 dB
- MP3 player at max volume – 100+ dB
- Power saw at three feet – 110 dB
- Loud rock concert – 115 dB
- 12-Gauge Shotgun Blast – 165 dB
Remember that with the decibel scale, a 10 dB increase is perceived by the human ear as being two times as loud. This means that a rock concert at 110 dB is 32 times louder than a normal conversation at 60 dB.
2. Protect your ears
Hearing damage is influenced by three factors: 1) the volume or intensity of the sound, 2) the period of time subjected to the sound, and 3) the distance between your ears and the sound source.
That means, in general, there are three ways you can protect against hearing injury from direct exposure to loud noise:
- Limit the volume with the use of earplugs (or by decreasing the volume on a music player).
- Limit the time of exposure to the noise either by avoiding it or by taking rest breaks.
- Increase the distance from the sound source as far as possible (e.g. not standing directly in front of the speakers during a rock concert).
Below are some other tips to protect your hearing:
- Use the 60/60 rule when listening to music on a portable device—listen for no more than 60 minutes at 60 percent of the max volume.
- Consult with your employer about its hearing protection programs if you work in an at-risk occupation.
- Use hearing protection at noisy locations and during loud activities. Budget friendly foam earplugs are obtainable at your local pharmacy, and custom earplugs are available from your local hearing professional.
- Invest in noise-cancelling headphones. These headphones block exterior sound so you can listen to the music at decreased volumes.
- Invest in musicians plugs, a special type of earplug that decreases volume without producing the dull sound of foam earplugs.
3. Know the warning signs of hearing loss
Hearing loss occurs when the nerve cells of the inner ear are damaged. The following are some of the signs of hearing damage to look for immediately after exposure to loud sounds:
- Ringing in the ears, also known as tinnitus.
- The sensation of “fullness” in your ears.
- Difficulty comprehending speech, where everything sounds muffled.
Those are some of the signs of hearing damage directly after exposure. Here are the signs of permanent hearing loss:
- Asking others to repeat themselves often, or regularly misunderstanding what people are saying.
- Having difficulty following conversations and making fine distinctions between similar sounding words and phrases.
- Turning the TV or radio volume up to the level where others notice.
- Thinking that other people are always mumbling.
- Having difficulty hearing on the phone.
Most frequently, your friends or family members will be the first to observe your hearing loss. It’s easy to brush this off, but in our experience, if someone is told they have hearing loss by a family member, chances are good that they do.
4. Get your hearing tested
Last, it’s important to obtain a hearing test, for two reasons. One, if your hearing is normal, you can not only tell others that your hearing is fine, you’ll also establish a baseline to contrast future hearing tests.
Second, if the hearing test does show hearing loss, you can work together with your hearing care expert to choose the most suitable hearing plan, which typically includes the use of hearing aids. And with modern day technology, you can recover your hearing and enhance almost every aspect of your life.